Camping Trip for the 2012 Perseid Meteor Shower

If you are looking for an impromptu activity to do with your friends, partner or children, tonight is an especially perfect night to embark on a camping trip. Though last minute, the advantage to camping this weekend is the peak of the  2012Perseid meteor shower which can be seen clearly in the night sky, as long as there are no interfering urban lights or glares. According to scientist Bill Cook, more than 100 ‘shooting stars’ can be seen in a single hour during this event.

The moon, Venus and Jupiter will also align in a spectacular display in the night sky, providing a romantic atmosphere or the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about the solar system, Earth and our moon.

Science@NASA released a short video that explains the phenomenon, which ends on August 13th.


The Transit of Venus: Now and Then

Today, June 5th, astronomers and space enthusiasts will be able to experience the transit of Venus, a rare planetary alignment that helped scientists map out our solar system many years ago. The second since 2004, the phenomenon won’t occur again until December 2117.

For centuries, astronomers have studied the transit with the goal of estimating the distance between Earth and the sun. Explorers competed for viewing locations, and watched the Venus crossed the sun over a six hour period.

Modern technology has allowed scientists to reach more accurate readings of the distance between our world and the sun, as well as the other planets in our solar system, but the transit of Venus remains an iconic event in astronomic development. The occurrence also aids astronomers in their search for other planets outside our solar system today.


How Hubble Works: Part 3

The Hubble Space Telescope is in orbit around the earth, completing one orbit every 97 minutes. At 5 miles per second, the speed at which Hubble is orbiting, it would be possible to travel the span of the entire United States in just 10 minutes. During its travels Hubble’s mirror catches light from space and passes it into several different scientific instruments.
Contrary to the belief by many that telescopes work by magnification of objects, the real power of telescopes is in their ability to collect more light than the human eye can collect unassisted.  The size of the mirror in a telescope determines the amount of light that the telescope can capture. The larger the mirror, the more light is captured, and the better the telescope can see. Although there are ground-based telescopes with mirrors larger than Hubble’s 2.4 meter diameter, because Hubble is above and outside of the earth’s atmosphere, Hubble is able to view the universe with unsurpassed clarity.

Hubble is outfitted with several different instruments which examine the incoming light from space in different ways. Together the information gathered from the many instruments on Hubble can give a more complete picture of the universe, extending and expanding our knowledge astronomically.

Hubble’s Discoveries: Part 2

The Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating twenty years of exploration and discovery of the vast universe in which we are just a small part.  Until Hubble allowed astronomers to probe into the deepest reaches of space, cosmologists could only guess the age of the universe to be somewhere between 10 and 20 billion years. With the help of Hubble the age of the universe is now given a much more accurate figure of 13-14 billion years.

Many key features of the universe have been discovered with the unique visualizing abilities of Hubble, such as dark energy, a mysterious force which accelerates the speed with which the universe is expanding. With the help of Hubble our understanding of how galaxies form has been advanced, as well as how solar systems and planets are born. Other planets have been observed orbiting their own suns in their own solar systems, proving that our solar system is not at all unique in the universe, something that was always conjecture, but never before actually visualized.

The amount of information spewing forth from Hubble is enormous, allowing astronomers to publish, as of today, over 6,000 articles based on data from Hubble. The Hubble Space Telescope has made a revolutionary difference in mankind’s understanding of the universe.

Hubble Space Telescope Celebrates Twenty Years of Out-of-this-World Exploration

Mankind always had a fascination for the study of the heavens. Ever since the most ancient times man has looked up into the night sky with wonder and awe. But great leaps forward were made possible only with advancing technology. The first giant step in the progress of man’s understanding of the reality which exists outside our home planet of earth came with the discoveries made by Galileo and his indispensable telescope. Since that time, as telescopes improved, so has our understanding of the universe. However, as long as telescopes were confined to the surface of the earth, they were seriously restricted in their ability to see past an “ocean” of atmosphere which separates them from space. Even telescopes on the highest mountain tops did not completely eliminate the detrimental effects of the earth’s atmosphere on the telescopes ability to observe space.

In 1990, with the deployment of the first telescope not hindered by the obscuring effects of the earth’s atmosphere, one of the greatest advances in the history of astronomy was made. The Hubble Space Telescope, in orbit around the earth, allows astronomers to see the universe as never before. Great leaps in our understanding of galaxies, objects in space, gravity, time, the age of the universe, and many other subjects have been made possible with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Perseids Perform Positively Perfectly

Did you see any shooting stars in the past few nights? If you did it was because the earth once again passed through the dust-tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle in its annual orbit of the sun, creating a wonderful show of meteors burning up high above our heads in the beautiful summer sky.

Don’t feel bad if you think you missed it, because the earth is actually in the dust of the comet for several weeks, and shooting stars, or meteors, will be  visible during the entire time, until about August 24th. Although the peak time for viewing is on Wednesday night until Friday morning, August 11-13, you can still enjoy a breathtaking sight by finding a dark spot with the minimal amount of light pollution, lying back on a blanket, and staring up at the night sky. With luck you should be able to see about 60-80 meteors/hour.

The reason this meteor shower is called the Perseid shower, is because the majority of meteors will appear to be originating in the constellation called Perseus. Percy Jackson fans, please take note.